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Publisher recalls law book with cover featuring half-naked comedian

Publisher recalls law book with cover featuring half-naked comedian

Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 12:53 GMT+7

A state-run publisher who allowed a book on Vietnam’s Civil Code and its guiding documents to feature a semi-nude, smiling comedian standing on a ball of fire on the front cover said they are recalling the copies. Meanwhile, the creator of the controversial image said his design was for fun only.

Vietnam law book cover features topless comedian on fire

1,000 copies of a book titled “Bo Luat Dan Su va Van Ban Huong Dan Thi Hanh 2014” (The Civil Code and Related Circulars 2014) were published by the Labor and Social Affairs Publishing House under the Ministry of Labor, Invalid, and Social Affairs earlier this year.

Its front cover features an almost-naked, brawny male body, but the face is that of Cong Ly, a popular comedian in Hanoi. 

The name “Cong Ly” in Vietnamese means “justice”.

The person is pictured standing on a fire ball holding two scales, a global symbol of justice.

Ly’s face, which wears a broad smile, is clumsily attached to the man’s body using Photoshop.

The book has drawn ire from local law professionals and the public.

Several hundred Tuoi Tre (Youth) readers have expressed their frustration at the book and the publisher’s carelessness.

For fun only

According to a Tuoi Tre investigation, the Photoshopped picture was posted by an account holder nicknamed Rainy Warrior on Vietdesigner, a local forum, two years ago.

The photo creator, whose real name is N. V. L., said he created it in November, 2012 for fun.

L., 23, who works in southern Vietnam’s Binh Duong Province, said he created a thread titled “The scales of justice” on

He then used Photoshop to create the photo from several original photos of pans, chains, bodybuilders, a sphere, volcano and a photo of the comedian.

The photo had been posted on the forum until Monday morning, when L. learned of the law book’s cover and immediately removed the photo and related images.

He told Tuoi Tre he found it ridiculously funny that his crude Photoshop work, meant for fun only, was used on the front cover of a printed law book.

L. added the publisher had not sought his consent or notified him before using his crafted photo.

Cong Ly, the depicted comedian, told Tuoi Tre that he has no intention to sue L.

Recalling the book

Nguyen Hoang Cam, director of the Labor and Social Affairs Publishing House, said in a Monday interview with Tuoi Tre that the photo on the cover was the idea of Lao Dong (Labor) Bookstore, the publisher’s partner in releasing the book.

“As a reputable publisher, we would never commit such an improper act with our own books, as we’re well aware such acts are not tolerable, particularly for a book with legal contents” he asserted.

Cam added the partner released the book in July this year without the publisher’s final approval, but shortly after the release the publisher detected the blunder and requested the partner suspend the publication and recall all copies immediately.

The cover image, as well as the title, were not the ones the publisher had approved earlier. Cam noted his publisher planned to report the blunder and recall it to the Publishing Department after the recall is complete.

“However, the recall remains unfinished, so a number of copies are still circulating on the market,” Cam explained.

The publisher is speeding up the recall, he added.

The publisher’s representative on Monday contacted and apologized to Ly and asked him for an appointment to settle the matter.

“I’m really shocked. How could the publisher use my photo without my consent or even prior notice? Worse, my face is depicted quite ridiculously,” artist Cong Ly said.

According to lawyer Huynh Phuoc Hiep, Ly can take legal actions against the publisher and claim compensation for its unauthorized use of his photo.

He can also demand an additional sum which is equal to ten months of minimum salary, Hiep noted.

The lawyer added the publisher can also be fined up to VND40 million (US$1,883).


Judge Pham Cong Hung, of the Supreme Court, also shared his astonishment and frustration with Tuoi Tre regarding the incident.    “I’m really at a loss how the publisher and its editors could allow this to happen. The act is indicative of an outrageous irony and blasphemy on the country’s civil legal system,” he said.

“Is the ridiculous image suggesting that the country’s entire legal system is no different than a comedian’s smile on a crude, patchy Photoshop work?” Hung pondered.

He added he and his colleagues feel offended as their profession is looked down upon.

Le Nguyen Nhat Minh, a student of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law, said he had no intention to buy the book when he first saw it.

“Law books bear national emblems. How could the publisher allow such an improper image right on the front of the book?”, he wondered.

Meanwhile, lawyer Nguyen Van Hau, deputy chair of the HCMC Lawyer Association, pointed out that the book’s creator also made an intolerably serious blunder in the book’s title.

“The Civil Code is currently under discussion by the National Assembly and has yet to be passed, so there’s no such thing as the 2014 Civil Code, as the book’s title indicated. The book is only about the Civil Code in 2005 and its related circulars that were adopted in 2006 and 2011,” he noted.

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